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rexing93 02-24-2013 08:25 PM

Lessons in exchange for work?
So I have been looking at various riding facilities that offer Hunter/Show Jumping lessons in my area and I've narrowed it down to the top three choices (and I've also recieved opinions from people and they thought my choices were good-best out of the numerous facilities chosen).

My absolute favorite facility is a Hunter/Show Jumper barn, however it specializes a bit more on the Show Jumper side which is what I want to do overall--after I of course learn the basics of English and am a confident rider. I'm not in a rush to just start jumping, by any means. I just want to be sure that I learn to ride correctly and safely.

Anywhoo, at the moment I'm having a predicament concerning money which means I can't afford to pay for lessons. However I heard about people working (doing stable chores, etc) in exchange for lessons and I do have a bit of free time on my hands and was highly interested in learning all aspects of horse care, handling, etc especially since I'm not one of the (lucky) people that get to be around them all the time.

I was wondering if working in exchange for lessons was a common occurance?
Also, how should I go about asking for the exchange? Should I "officially" tour the facility and then tell them about my situation?

Sorry I'm a bit new to this and want to give myself the best odds possible.

Thank you for reading/commenting! Any help is appreciated(:

OutOfTheLoop 02-24-2013 08:28 PM

Working in exchange for board/ lessons, hardly ever turns out in your favor. Are you old enough to work at a fast food joint or grocery store? Your better off getting a job and paying for your lessons. As far as touring a facility as an interested person, and then at the end dropping the bomb that you can't pay, if I was a barn owner, I would be highly ticked. Be upfront and call and talk to the bo, or go for a visit and let them know what you are looking for. If they say no, then leave your name and number in case they change their minds.
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rexing93 02-24-2013 08:52 PM

I am old enough to work, however I'm in an area where it feels like I'm competing against numerous college graduates (and with people who are much more qualified) just to get a job at McDonalds. It took my friend over a year to land a hostess job and I'm following the same luck, so I was wanting to do an exchange in the meanwhile, but then when I get a job transition to paying for actual lessons.
So for now, just "getting" a job and paying isn't quite an option until I can actually land the job--which for the last few months has proven to be especially difficult.

Thank you, though.

alexischristina 02-24-2013 08:54 PM

If they have an email then type our a resume and cover letter, write out a friendly inquiring email and attach resume and cover letter. Send them to ALL the barns you're interested in and don't hold your breath, especially if you don't have much experience.

Your best bet might be to find a smaller stable that doesn't 'specialize'. Larger stables and lesson barns typically hire staff experienced in all types of horse handling.

existentialpony 02-24-2013 09:16 PM

Growing up, my family didn't have a whole lot of money, so I almost exclusively worked in exchange for lessons and riding time! I agree that sometimes smaller barns tend to be more open about this kind of situation, but it never ever hurts to ask!

Another option is to work a little in exchange for a cheaper lesson price.

I would draft an email to each of these three barns explaining that you are looking for a job to work in exchange for lessons (or discounted lessons). Talk a little about who you are and what you do, and mention that you are open to any kind of work. Sometimes places will surprise you!

Again, it never hurts to ask. If I were in your situation I would send out a few different emails and see who gets back to you.

OutOfTheLoop 02-24-2013 09:31 PM

If you don't have any luck with the large barns, and are willing to settle for just experience and time around horses for the time being, then def look at smaller, family places. I know I would be happy to find a young person to help me around the barn, cleaning tack and suck, in echnage for lessons on my gelding.
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rexing93 02-24-2013 09:54 PM

Thank you everyone for the comments!
I guess I should've noted these aren't "large" facilites by any means, but I moved from a Western-dominate area to an English-dominate area so all these facilities "specialize" in Hunters/Jumpers, however my favorite just seems to have students go farther into the Jumper arena instead of Hunters.

I'll be calling my top three tomorrow just to see what my odds are.
I guess I should ask, would you recommend calling or sending out an email? I guess I just figured calling would be considered more professional than emailing.

And again, thank you!

OutOfTheLoop 02-24-2013 11:02 PM

Def call instead of emailing.
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alexischristina 02-24-2013 11:13 PM

I recommend emailing if you're able to put together a complete resume, get all your skills and achievements down on paper, and then giving a follow up call.
If you don't have the experience to put it all down like that then a call is fine, I just worry that they might not have time to take your call / engage you / might just give you a quick 'no, sorry' whereas with an email they have time to think on it before responding, and can respond when they're not super busy as most trainers / BOs are.

AnneGage 02-25-2013 12:03 AM

I am a full-time, professional horse trainer/riding coach/clinician and farm owner. But, when I was a horse crazy teenager, I couldn't afford lessons. So, I started working week-ends at a small barn. In exchange, I received riding lessons and a lot of hands on experience in stall mucking and horse care. That all came in handy a few years later, when I finally had my own horse and I was able to work off part of his board and my riding lessons at the farm where he was boarded. Without the years of 'unpaid' experience as a teenager, the boarding barn would not have hired me. It takes time to train someone to properly muck a stall, feed and care for horses, etc.

I encourage you to find a way to pursue your interest. As a busy horse professional, I also encourage you to make a phone call and send an email. You may get voice mail when you call, but leave a message and let them know you will send them an email and give them another call back in a couple of days. (I also used to teach job search skills to college students before I started my own business.) Some people prefer a quick phone call while others prefer email. I know, it often takes me days to reply to emails and much more time to type out a reply. A phone call can be faster.

Over the years, I have had several young people work in exchange for lessons at my farm. I'm always looked for signs that they were very keen, eager to do the dirty work and happy to just be around the horses ... and most importantly, willing to learn.

Don't be discouraged if you don't get a 'yes' to start with. It might take a few 'no's' before you get there. Let other people know what you are looking for as well. You never know what contacts people have.

When you do find someone willing to have you work in exchange for lessons, make sure the arrangement is very clear for both of you. You want to get a fair exchange for the amount of work you will be doing. For example, be clear on how many hours you have to work in exchange for one lesson and also ask how often you will get lessons.

Enjoy the journey.

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